Mortlach 1995 (Duncan Taylor “The Octave”) Review

Mortlach 1995 (Duncan Taylor “The Octave”)019

55.4% abv

Score:  87/100


Here’s another release from Duncan Taylor’s ‘The Octave’ series.  This range consists of whiskies given a short secondary maturation (aka finishing) in small ex-sherry casks known as Octaves.  The finish time is short due to the intensity of spirit / wood interaction in these small barrels.  Anything longer than the prescribed three months would most likely lead to over-oaking.

We recently checked out a surprisingly good Deanston from the Octaves line-up; now let’s see how this method of maturation works on a more robust spirit such as Mortlach.

This is an 18 year old whisky from 1995.  It’s heavy…it’s meaty…it’s dense…and it’s sherry-rich.  In short: it’s all things Mortlach has generally been renowned for throughout the ages.  The distillery’s fingerprint is crystal clear in this malt.  That, even if for no other reason, is enough to put me squarely behind this one.  It doesn’t hurt that the whisky is quite decent too.  Not stellar, but absolutely enjoyable and multi-layered enough to please those looking for more depth in their dram.

Confession time now.  I’m not gonna lie: I’m fighting a tendency to score this one higher simply due to my rebellion against the current direction official Mortlach bottlings have taken.  Indies are the way to go with this distillery.  Historically, they always have been.  It’s a no-brainer that in the age of slap-in-the-face premiumisation on the part of Diageo that we’ll continue to reach for independent Mortlach bottlings over the branded stuff.  Better value, to be sure, but also an inherent responsibility to dig our heels in and reject the philosophy of arbitrary price-fixing.  If you are in the dark as to Diageo’s modus operandi regarding handling of this distillery, let me help you out by sharing a fellow cynic’s POV here.

Nose:  Yes! This is Mortlach, as I’d expect it to be. Pie crust.  Orange marmalade, cinnamon and ginger.  Peppery meaty note. Fruit leather. Makes me think of the Ardbeg Auriverdes if you could somehow leech all the peat out of that beast (odd, right?). Almost a eucalyptus note playing off a BBQ savoury note.

Palate: Savoury and spicy arrival. Raspberry jam, candied ginger, licorice. Slightly salty playdough note and yes…still meaty here. Thick and gooey. Resonates with dark, dark fruity notes and a very heavy spice profile. And…a touch too much wood.

Thoughts: Nice to be in familiar Mortlach territory, even if this is not the most spectacular example. To be fair, though…it is a kickass dram and the price tag isn’t that bad (substantially under $200.)

* Sample provided by Kensington Wine Market’s Andrew Ferguson.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

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